Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Fourth Report


The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has agreed to the following Report:



Tourism in crisis

1. Tourism is the fourth largest industry in the United Kingdom.[6] The industry is responsible for the employment of nearly two million people.[7] As labour-intensive heavy manufacturing industry has declined, tourism has played a greater role in the British economy. As farming and rural industries have declined in relative importance, tourism has assumed particular prominence in the rural economy. In recent times, tourism has been responsible for one in four new jobs created in this country.[8]

2. Since the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease was first confirmed on 20 February 2001, measures adopted to combat the disease and prevent its spread, together with the media reporting of the disease and those preventive measures, have inflicted serious damage on the tourism industry. Unlike previous problems faced by the industry in recent times, the current crisis has affected both the market for domestic visitors and the level of visitors to the United Kingdom from overseas. The manner in which the media has depicted this crisis abroad has undoubtedly had a damaging effect on the willingness of overseas visitors to come to this country.

3. This Committee in no way wishes to minimise the impact of foot and mouth disease on the life of this country as well as on the livelihood of the farming industry. Indeed, in this Report we emphasise the impact, which will not be short-term, on the tourist industry. Nevertheless, the impression given by the press and television that foot and mouth disease was a problem ravaging large parts of the country, most of which were unaffected by the disease and its direct consequences, has undoubtedly decided tourists not to come here. We have received many reports of cancellations, and operators of visitor attractions, many of whom have a very narrow margin between profit and loss, have told us of the serious damage inflicted on them by this distorted and seriously exaggerated media coverage.

4. The effects of the current crisis have not been alleviated by systemic weaknesses in the tourist industry and public sector support for that industry. Recent developments have exposed the problems brought about by the failure of successive Governments to invest in the promotion of tourism appropriate to the structure of the industry and to the revenue benefits to the public purse from expenditure generated by tourism.

5. There is an urgent and compelling need for support for tourism nationally, regionally and locally to ensure that tourism businesses are not crippled or even destroyed in the worst affected areas of rural England and that such businesses can live to prosper another day. In this Report we make specific proposals with this end in view.

6. There is also a compelling case for a fundamental reconsideration of the scale and nature of public sector support for the tourist industry in the long-term to ensure not only that the industry can be put back on its feet, but that there can be some gain from this bleak episode in terms of a proper recognition in public policy of the importance and unique needs of tourism. In this Report, we aim to pinpoint some of the measures that should be taken in pursuit of this objective.

The conduct of this inquiry

7. We announced our intention to undertake this inquiry on Thursday 5 April. We took oral evidence at a single session on Thursday 26 April from the British Tourist Authority,[9] the tourist boards of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland,[10] Cumbria and Devon County Councils together with the Cumbria Tourist Board and South West Tourism,[11] the English Tourism Council,[12] and Ms Janet Anderson MP, Minister for Tourism in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.[13] We also received a great range of written evidence, most of which will be published along with the oral evidence taken on Thursday 26 April in Volume II of this Report.[14] We are most grateful to all those who provided evidence for this inquiry, particularly in view of the necessarily tight timetable for the conduct of the inquiry and the very difficult circumstances that many tourist organisations now face.

8. In advance of the oral evidence session, certain members of the Committee held meetings with tourist organisations in various parts of the United Kingdom and reported some of the issues raised in the course of those visits to the Committee. Those notes by members of this Committee are published as Annexes 2 to 5 to this Report.

9. On Monday 30 April and Tuesday 1 May we visited the Forest of Dean to meet local tourist organisations and businesses. This visit brought home to us the real impact of foot and mouth disease on tourism in a severely affected area and the scale of the tasks needed for genuine recovery for tourism. In Annex I of this Report we list the meetings held and the individuals whom we met in the course of the visit. We are most grateful to all of those individuals for making the time to meet us and for their frank and illuminating assessments of the current situation and the measures needed.

10. In view of the exceptional urgency of some of the needs of many tourist businesses, we have decided to report our findings and conclusions to the House at the earliest possible opportunity. We are only too aware that the crisis affecting parts of rural Britain is far from over and that the crisis for parts of the tourist trade will continue even after foot and mouth disease is eliminated. For this reason, we do not offer a comprehensive analysis of the extent of the current problems affecting tourism or a chronological analysis of the actions taken by the relevant public authorities since the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. What we do seek to do is to put the current situation in a wider context and to put forward an agenda both for the immediate future and for the long-term recovery and strengthening of the tourism industry.

6  For the background to this statement and for a fuller consideration of the industry as it then stood, see First Report from the National Heritage Committee, Tourism, HC (1996-97) 108-I, paras 7-10. Back

7  Tourism Recovery Briefing, English Tourism Council, 19 April 2001, p 8. Back

8  Q 148; Evidence, p 50. Back

9  Mr Jeff Hamblin OBE, Chief Executive, and Mr Bernard Donoghue, Head of Government and Corporate Affairs. Back

10  Mr Roger Pride, Director of Marketing, Wales Tourist Board; Mr Peter McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive, Scottish Tourist Board, Mr David McAuley, Acting Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Back

11  Ms Hazel Broatch, Director of Policy and Performance, Cumbria County Council, Mr Ian Stephens, Operations Director, Cumbria Tourist Board, Mr Philip Jenkinson, Chief Executive, Devon County Council, and Mr Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive, South West Tourism. Back

12  Mr Alan Britten, Chairman, and Ms Mary Lynch, Chief Executive, English Tourism Council. Back

13  Accompanied by Mr Brian Leonard, Director for Regions, Tourism, Millennium and International, and Mr Simon Broadley, Head of Tourism Division, Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Back

14  See pp xl-xlii for lists of memoranda received. Back

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